From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Tone of the orchestra's '06-07 season
Listen for a little more Eschenbach - "because I like it there" - less new music, and more humor.
By David Patrick Stearns - Sun, Jan. 22, 2006
The 2006-07 Philadelphia Orchestra season will be marked by (1) an extra week with music director Christoph Eschenbach; (2) a little less contemporary music; (3) (with any luck) much more humor than usual, with an emphasis on the sometimes giggly Mozart and the mordantly witty Shostakovich.
Reasons are varied.
(1) "Because I like it there," said Eschenbach, talking by phone from Paris, where he's rehearsing Wagner's Ring cycle with his other ensemble, the Orchestre de Paris. "I'm very at ease with the orchestra and administration."
(2) "We've done a lot of that [new music] this season," he said. "Maybe it's time to relax a little bit." Yet there will be new works by Henri Dutilleux and John Harbison, plus a revised version of Aaron Jay Kernis' Color Wheel, which opened the Kimmel Center.
(3) Mozart and Shostakovich have overlapping anniversary years: 2006 marks the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth and Shostakovich's centenary. Mozart will be represented by Eschenbach's return to the concerto repertoire as a pianist/conductor for the first time in two years, Nov. 30 to Dec. 3. Shostakovich will be represented by both of his piano concertos in the same concert played by an unlikely interpreter, the popular Andre Watts, Oct. 13 and 14.
Though the ailing Wolfgang Sawallisch is conspicuously absent, another former music director, Riccardo Muti, returns with a program of lesser-known works by major composers such as Schubert and Hindemith (Nov. 2 to 7). And what some people think might be a future music director, Vladimir Jurowski, returns conducting Stravinsky's The Fairy's Kiss Feb. 1 to 9, 2007. Other notable guest conductors include Ivan Fischer (Dec. 7 to 9), Marin Alsop (Jan. 4 to 9, 2007), James Conlon (Jan. 11 to 13, 2007), Valery Gergiev (Feb. 8 to 11, 2007), and Roger Norrington (Feb. 22 to 24, 2007).
Major soloists include violinist Leonidas Kavakos (Nov. 16 to 18), cellist Truls Mork (Nov. 24 to 28), pianist Jonathan Biss (Jan. 11 to 13, 2007), pianist Martha Argerich (March 2 to 6, 2007), pianist Lars Vogt (March 29 to 31, 2007), pianist Piotr Anderszewski (April 12 to 14, 2007), violinist Janine Jansen (April 20 and 21, 2007), and violinist Julia Fischer (April 27 to May 1, 2007).
The perennials are Philadelphia-based pianist Lang Lang (who opens the season Sept. 21 to 26), Watts in his usual big-fisted repertoire with Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 (Oct. 5 to 12), and Handel's Messiah (Dec. 10 and 12) with one of the best-known British vocal conductors in the world, Richard Hickox, who is also music director of Opera Australia.
The multiseason Mahler cycle continues with Eschenbach performances of Symphony No. 4 Nov. 16 to 28, baritone Thomas Quasthoff singing Kindertotenlieder Jan. 17 to 20, and the season finale, Symphony No. 2 ("Resurrection") May 3 to 5, 2007.
Though any Mahler symphony is fair game for live, Ondine-label recordings (the "Resurrection" especially boasts the luxurious casting of soprano Barbara Bonney), Eschenbach says the most likely candidate is the Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 ("Pathetique"), which he conducts Oct. 5 to 7.
As with the forthcoming release of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5, which is due in April, the disc will be filled out by Eschenbach's performances of the Tchaikovsky piano pieces, The Seasons. "I call myself a filler," he jokes.
New music includes soprano Dawn Upshaw singing Dutilleux's Three Sonnets of Jean Cassou Oct. 20 to 22, and the world premiere of the Double Bass Concerto by Harbison (author of the operatic version of The Great Gatsby) Jan. 4 to 9, 2007. The soloist will be the orchestra's Harold Robinson.
There's another world premiere, but it's a wild card: a new orchestral work by Oliver Knussen, who is one of England's most esteemed composers, but among the most notorious for missing deadlines. The piece was supposed to be premiered in the current season, and as of yet, there's no title. However, Knussen's slot is the last date of next season, May 10 to 12, 2007. Is the piece done yet? "I think so," Eschenbach said. "He promised."
The other wild card is Eschenbach in the most unlikely of repertoire: Vivaldi's The Four Seasons (Jan. 25 and 26, 2007). Though Eschenbach doesn't traffic exclusively in existential tragedy, he may be unwilling to acknowledge what a departure Vivaldi is for him. He talks about playing baroque music annually, moving on to Rameau and Purcell. He subscribes to historic performance practice, within reason: "The most important thing is diction and phrasing," he says.
There's also the element of playing more directly with small ensembles derived from the orchestra, which is partly why Eschenbach is also returning to the piano in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12 (K. 414) and No. 23 (K. 488) Nov. 30 to Dec. 3.
"I schedule myself these things to force me to play the piano. Sometimes, I have to leave it alone for two months, such as when I'm involved with these big productions of Wagner."
The former concert pianist admits his fingers can be rusty: "It takes two or three days [of practice] after a break, and then I love it," he says. "And it's not just for my own pleasure, but the pleasure of making music with other people... . So I keep myself attached to the piano."